The UK’s used car market declined by – 8.3% in the first quarter of 2020, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 

Growth in January and February, up 2.9% and 4.0% respectively, was wiped out by a – 30.7% fall in March, making it the lowest March on record as coronavirus lockdown measures that came into effect partway through the month closed retailers.

Demand for pre-owned plug-in electric vehicles grew 13.6% in the first quarter, after a bumper first two months when buyers took advantage of more of these zero, and zero-emission capable, models appearing on the used market. The number of hybrids changing hands also rose, up 11.5%, taking the total number of used alternatively fuelled vehicle (AFV) sales to 36,493. Meanwhile, petrol and diesel car transactions decreased – 9.3% and – 7.8% respectively, though combined they still accounted for 97.9% of all used sales in the quarter, equivalent to 1,814,598 cars.

Reflecting trends in the new car market, superminis remained the most popular used buy, with 610,859 transactions, equating to 33.0% of the market but almost all segments saw a fall in demand, apart from dual purpose, which rose 2.7% with just over a quarter of a million finding new owners. 

Despite the challenging market conditions, the latest industry data indicates that average used car residuals are holding firm, with prices in March remaining broadly stable, down only – 0.2% year-on-year at £13,601. Data also suggests that, despite lockdown measures being in effect, consumers are continuing to search and browse used cars online with many still looking to buy when the time is right.